Last Thursday was Sophie’s dress rehearsal for her dance recital. Her costume contained patterned frills, polka-dot sequins, and every color of the rainbow. We found a recording of Judy Garland’s “Meet Me in Saint Louis” on youtube and practiced together in the family room beforehand. We galloped in circles, pointed our toes, blew kisses, and promenaded. She was excited when we left.
We had to wait around a bit because we were early. (I had this fear that I would show up at the wrong place at the wrong time—which was exactly what I did do for her prior rehearsal. I broke several speed limits, and we were still late.) Luckily Jacob noticed I had her whole costume on backwards before we left: “Isn’t that a little low-cut?” he asked. Thank goodness for a dad’s ability to survey a daughter’s apparel!
Sophie nearly fell asleep waiting for the director to call the “Boogie Babies” up on stage. She began to gallop with the other girls in a circle as soon as the song began; her smile was wide and her pony tail bounced. But when the next part of the routine came, she couldn’t find the “letter” she was supposed to dance on. She stood with her hands laced together in front of her and began to look out to the crowd and call “mama” as the other girls danced around her.
In the seconds it took for my heart to stretch out of my chest toward her, there wasn’t enough time to think, but there was time to feel. Sophie dances to the beat of her own drum—and at that moment on Thursday night, her beat didn’t coincide with Judy Garland’s. My heart rate increased as I watched her stare out into the auditorium as the song continued; I just wanted her to have fun, to dance with the other girls, to do what was expected. Later that night I tried to process how I was feeling in that moment, and here is what I wrote:
How extraordinarily shallow and expected. To not want her to be different!! How lame!! How unoriginal!! How….. everything I don’t want to stand for! But I want her to find her niche, I want her to be happy, I want to honor the thinker, and daydreamer and introvert that she is—I want to honor who she is. I never want her to try to impress, I never want her to feel shame or condemnation. I want her to know love. I want her to be herself. I want her to find herself… I lift her up, I lift her up, I lift her up. I hold her name, her image, her spirit before the God who holds all things together. “She is mine,” He whispers to me, and my eyes flood with tears, “She is mine.” Silence, and a few more tears. “She is mine, she is mine.” Stop worrying. Trust.
Fast forward a few more days. I sit nervously by myself in the auditorium with fresh roses across my lap. I have just hugged Soph and said goodbye to her in the cafeteria adjacent to the theater; “Remember, if you can’t find your letter, just keep dancing!” I say, “And most of all, have fun!” (Thank goodness for welcome clichés.) As I wait for the show to begin, I continue to worry: “What if she pees in her leotard?” I think, “She is Mine” I hear. ”What if she gets lost in the dark backstage and the chaperones forget about her?” She is Mine. “What if she falls?” She is Mine. “What if starts crying?” She is Mine.
The lights come up; the violins carry the opening melody of “Meet Me In Saint Louis.” I find her on stage. “Good, she’s not lost,” I think. I watch her gallop around in a circle with a wide grin on her face. The refrain begins—we’re about to reach the point in the song when Sophie called out for me at the dress rehearsal. She realizes she hasn’t found her letter. She grins shyly and starts to tap her toe in front of her anyway. A few seconds later her eyes light up and she jumps a few feet forward. She’s found it! She’s found her letter! She smiles broadly and sways her hips and blows a kiss and continues to skip around the stage.
Pride and relief and love well beneath my eyelids and wet my cheeks. “She is Yours,” I tell God silently, “But thanks for making her mine for a little bit, too.”